JOY To The World!

“JOY To The World!”

(To go along with this advent devotional, we’ve updated our Spotify Christmas playlist! Check it out here.)


      Christmas is a time of anticipation and celebration! For weeks, even months we have been anticipating Christmas day finally arriving. As kids it was all about the gifts we would get Christmas morning- just hoping Santa would come through on that shiny new bike. Now, for many of us it’s the anticipation of time with family, yummy food, and celebrating the gift of Jesus that we have already been given. Celebrating that the Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, Prince of Peace came to dwell with us so that we might live in Him! 

Christmas is also a time of joy! 

      A theme of joy runs throughout the story of Jesus’ miraculous birth. This theme runs all the way out to a group of rough and ragged shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night. Those same shepherds who were outcast and marginalized by their culture. Those same shepherds who were well acquainted with fear, worry, and rejection- just like many of us are today. To them the angels made the very first announcement of the birth of Jesus. Notice how they described this announcement of Christ’s birth: 

“And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” – Luke 2:10-11

Whether you are reading this devotion on Christmas Day or the days following- don’t miss this truth:

While Jesus came for our sins, Jesus also came for our joy! 


      On that silent and holy night, the message of Christ’s birth was delivered as “good news of great joy”! God cares about your joy! In fact, God wants to be the source of your joy! While happiness comes from our circumstances, joy comes from a source… a source greater than our circumstances. And in Jesus, God gave the world an eternal source of joy greater than any circumstances we might face!

      So what would it look like for you to be a joyful person? What would it look like for us to be people who choose joy because of our Savior- no matter our circumstances?

      Two things come to mind- gratitude and generosity. To be a joyful person is to be a person with a grateful heart and a generous life! When we see something that gives us joy, gratitude inevitably wells up and generosity naturally overflows. This is exactly what we see as the theme of joy continues running through the Christmas story. As the three wise men approached the place of Jesus’ birth, we read this:

“And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” – Matthew 2:9-11

    Joy wells up gratitude, and gratitude overflows into generosity! As we finish this year and prepare to start a new decade,  let’s choose to be joyful people. Let’s choose joy because of our Savior- no matter our circumstances!


Here is how we can practice this today:

  • Acknowledge : Write out your thoughts. 

-What area of your life are you tempted to focus on as your source of joy (relationships, material possessions, success in school or work, popularity, future plans, etc.)? Write them down.

-Can you see how these worldly sources never produce lasting joy?

  • Posture : Now take those thoughts captive. 

Write down this phrase: “Let every heart prepare him room.” 

-As we make space in our hearts for God to be our true source of joy, it means we have to let go of lesser things. Open your hands as a physical posture of release. 

-Now try and posture your heart to God. What would it take for you to have joy right now in this moment, regardless of your circumstances? 

  • Prayer : Now invite God into those thoughts. 

-Pray and ask God to be your source of joy in life. 

-“God, Psalm 16:11 says that ‘in your presence there is fullness of joy’. Help me to have a bigger perspective. You sent Jesus to represent that you are with us. And now you have given me your Spirit so that I can be in your presence at all times. I always have access joy! Help me to acknowledge your presence in my day to day life, and as I do, help me to overflow with gratitude and generosity!”


Amen. We love you guys! Thanks for following along. Merry Christmas! We can’t wait to see you in the New Year!


(If you didn’t check it out before, check out this week’s advent playlist here.)

How Do I Discern God’s Voice?

“How Do I Discern God’s Voice?”

(To go along with this advent devotional, we’ve also made a Spotify playlist! Check it out here.)


Last week, we spoke about God’s work- even in the midst of silence. We then invited you to take time to practice silence as an opportunity to trust God. But silence can be scary.

          When we sit in silence, it oftentimes does not take long for shame to creep in. Shame infiltrates our thoughts quietly but can control our thoughts loudly. Shame is the voice that tells you to hide rather than to share and to bury rather than to simply be. Have you heard that voice before? It’s the voice that speaks your insecurities as truth and calls you unworthy. Often, we confuse the voice of shame and God’s voice, but this misinterpretation is nothing new. 

          When we look back to the advent story in Luke chapters 1&2, we see that shame was wrapped around the culture Jesus was born into. Elizabeth, Mary’s relative, was an older woman who couldn’t live up to the expectations of her community by having children. In that cultural context, this was shameful. The shepherds were men outcast and stereotyped by society who lived marginalized simply because of their job. Shame. Mary was a young, unmarried woman who, though she was a virgin, became pregnant with a baby. Mary too, was well acquainted with shame


But it was not shame that Mary was bearing. In fact, Mary held the remedy to shame that enslaved the world around her: HOPE


Our world belittles people with shame. But our God does not speak the language of shame.

We have a God who speaks fluently in hope.

          Hope for the world was born that night as a crying baby. And the world crying from the pain of shame was soothed with a lullaby of hope. A hope that would bring light to darkness. A hope that defeated death on a cross. A hope that brought the marginalized into belonging and the broken into restoration. Jesus, the light of the world, our living hope, entered the world that first Christmas night! 

          As a believer, it is normal to experience an inner tension because shame and hope are two opposing forces in the movement of the soul. Shame holds you back, but hope pulls you forward!

          So where the world cast shame on the old woman without child, God spoke hope of a child who would pave the way for the coming Messiah. Where the world placed shame on the marginalized shepherds, God extended an invitation to witness Hope being born. Where the world shouted shame on the unmarried pregnancy, God whispered hope for the world. 

Where we see shame, God speaks hope. 

          Maybe you have been living captive to shame. You should know that hope is the candle lit for you this season. And the constant flame can be a continual reminder that our King has entered the world, and his presence rattles our culture that believes we deserve shame. God does not speak in shame. He speaks hope over your life and over the world. 


Here is how you can start to discern God’s voice: 

Take some time in the midst of this week to find a quiet place to acknowledge silence, posture your heart, and pray to God.

  • Acknowledge : Write out your thoughts. 

-What parts of your life has shame claimed? Write them down.

-Can you identify where that shame is coming from? Remember that God does not speak shame.

  • Posture : Now take those thoughts captive. 

-Write down this phrase: “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.” 

-As you focus on the areas where you feel shame, open your hands as a physical posture of release. 

-Now try and posture your heart to God. What would it look like to replace those areas of shame with hope? 

  • Prayer : Now invite God into those thoughts. 

-Pray and ask God to speak hope into your life. 

-Isaiah 40 reminds us that “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength”.

-“God, as I posture myself to trust you with my shame, help me to discern your voice. Renew me with your strength and give me a confidence in Jesus who is my Living Hope.”


(If you didn’t check it out before, check out this week’s advent playlist here.)

What Do We Do When God Is Silent?

What Do We Do When God Is Silent?

(To go along with this advent devotional, we’ve also made a Spotify playlist! Check it out here.)


          The idea of silence has been forever linked with Christmas. Songs like “Silent Night” did a pretty good job of that. But the silence of Christmas started hundreds of years before the night Christ was born. To be exact, there were 400 years of silence from God. This time period is represented in the single blank page between the Old Testament and the New Testament.

          For thousands of years, God spoke to His people through the written words of the Old Testament and through the audible words of the prophets. All along pointing people to the hope of a coming Messiah. And then, not a word of scripture written. Not a word of prophecy spoken. 400 years of waiting to hear from God again and with no end in sight! Can you imagine? 

          But then one night, one silent and one holy night, THE Word was spoken and the Savior was born.


“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14


Here is an important lesson we can learn from this:

Silence is not a bad thing


Silence is not absence. Silence is opportunity. 

          Just because God seems to be silent doesn’t mean that He is absent! And just because God seems silent doesn’t mean that He isn’t working! God’s timing may be different than ours, but we know that His timing is perfect. We know that He is working all things for our good and His glory! In seasons of silence, we have the opportunity to posture our hearts to trust God with our uncertainty. 

          This Christmas Break are you willing to allow for silence in the midst of the noise of the season? Are you willing to carve out time to spend time with God? Quiet time with God may be the thing you need most this Christmas!


Here is a way to help you get started: 

          Don’t run from silence. Embrace it as an opportunity to trust. Take some time in the midst of this week to find a quiet place to acknowledge silence, posture your heart, and pray to God.

Acknowledge : Write out your thoughts. 

  • What areas in my life do I feel like God is silent? Write them down. 
  • How does that silence make you feel? Frustrated, anxious, tired, hopeless? 
  • This practice might feel scary or you might be tempted to feel guilty, but remember that our doubts and uncertainty about the future don’t scare God! 

Posture : Now take those thoughts captive. 

  • Write down this phrase: “Even when I don’t feel it, You’re working.” 
  • As you focus on the areas where you feel like God is silent, open your hands as a physical posture of release. 
  • Now try and posture your heart to trust. 

Prayer : Now invite God into those thoughts. 

  • Pray and ask God to increase your faith. 
  • “God, give me wisdom and understanding in my current circumstances.And in my limited perspective, give me confidence in Your character and in Your faithfulness.” 

Silence is not absence.

 Silence is an opportunity to trust.

We can trust that God is working in the silence. Just as He was those 400 years before the first Christmas, He is working in your silence now! 


(If you didn’t check it out before, check out this week’s advent playlist here.)

Easter Week- Day 8

Day Eight Thumbnail        Happy Easter! We hope you spend time today to celebrate the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus our Savior! 


Easter Sunday: “Jesus is alive!”

“He is not here, he is risen!”

“In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” Then they remembered his words.” – Luke 24:5-8

Today remember this… Jesus lived the perfectly sinless life we could not live, died the wrath absorbing death we deserved to died, and rose from the grave to new life so that we might also have newness of life through Him. He has risen! Jesus really was who He said He was and He really did what He said He would do. This is the good news of Easter! Happy Easter!

Read: Luke 24
Easter Sunday Account: Matthew 28:1–20

Easter Week- Day 7

Day Seven Thumbnail        We created these daily readings for the week of Easter to help prepare our hearts to remember and celebrate the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus our Savior!  We encourage you to spend some time each day in these readings, not only reading them but processing their implications on your life and your love for God!


“Death to Sin”

Our sin demanded a penalty and Jesus paid that price, once and for all!

“For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” – Romans 6:10

The death that Jesus died on Good Friday He died to sin…in two ways. First Jesus died to sin meeting the legal requirements of our sin. Our sin demanded a penalty and Jesus paid that price, once and for all! Secondly, Jesus died to sin breaking the power of sin! For those who have put their faith in Jesus, sin no longer has any power over them. In Jesus we are no longer slaves to sin! Our job is now to believe this to be true for us because of Jesus.

Read: Romans 6:1-14

Day Seven Account:  Matthew 27:62–66

Easter Week- Day 6

Day Six Thumbnail        We created these daily readings for the week of Easter to help prepare our hearts to remember and celebrate the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus our Savior!  We encourage you to spend some time each day in these readings, not only reading them but processing their implications on your life and your love for God!


Good Friday: “Right Time”

The good news of the gospel begins with the bad news… we were sinners in need of a Savior!

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:6-8

At just the right time Jesus came to die. That “right time” was not a year, or a century, or a period of time, but was when we were powerless, it was while we were still sinners. That was the right time for Jesus to die. The Friday of Easter Week is called Good Friday. Here’s what is so good about that day. Because of what Jesus did for us on the cross we don’t have to clean ourselves up or get our life straight before we come to Jesus, we just come as we are trusting in His finished work of the cross!

Read:  John 19:30, Romans 4:25
Good Friday Account: Matthew 27:1–61

Easter Week- Day 5

Day Five Thumbnail Edit        We created these daily readings for the week of Easter to help prepare our hearts to remember and celebrate the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus our Savior!  We encourage you to spend some time each day in these readings, not only reading them but processing their implications on your life and your love for God!


Maundy Thursday:  “New Command”

Before the cross we knew the love of God, after the cross we know the full extent of God’s love!

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34, 35

      Thursday of Easter Week is known as Maundy Thursday, named for the “new command” that Jesus gave just before the cross. There was nothing new about a command to love others. Several times already Jesus had commanded us to love others, to love others as you love yourself, and even to love your enemies. But here in this “new command” Jesus fills out the extend of what it  means to truly love. To truly love another person is to love as He loved us. And how did Jesus love us… completely, sacrificially, and selflessly even to death! When we love others like this the world will see Jesus in us.

Read:  1 John 3:16, John 13:1
Day Five Account:  Matthew 26:17–75

Easter Week- Day 4

Day Four Thumbnail        We created these daily readings for the week of Easter to help prepare our hearts to remember and celebrate the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus our Savior!  We encourage you to spend some time each day in these readings, not only reading them but processing their implications on your life and your love for God!


       This week you might notice that we are using palm branches in our Easter branding. This is because the crowds laid down palm branches before the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday believing that “Hosanna in the Highest” had come. This week lay down our praises believing that Jesus is Hosanna- the One who saves! 

“Great Exchange” 

In God’s mercy we are called forgiven, through His grace we are called righteous!

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” -2 Corinthians 5:21

      To be shown mercy means that you messed up in some way and did not receive the consequence you deserved. To be shown grace, on the other hand, means that you mess up and instead of receiving the due consequence, you received undeserved kindness! Through faith in Jesus we receive the mercy of God. We are not given what we deserve, punishment for our sin. Even more we receive the grace of God through faith. Instead of receiving the punishment we deserve for our sin, we are given the very righteousness of God that we did not deserve and could never earn on our own! Not only did Jesus take on our sin and it’s consequence, but He gave us His own righteousness. This is the great exchange… our sin for His righteousness!

Read:  Isaiah 53:11, 1 Peter 3:18
Day Four Account:  Matthew 26:6–16

 

 

Easter Week- Day 3

Day Three Thumbnail        We created these daily readings for the week of Easter to help prepare our hearts to remember and celebrate the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus our Savior!  We encourage you to spend some time each day in these readings, not only reading them but processing their implications on your life and your love for God!


       This week you might notice that we are using palm branches in our Easter branding. This is because the crowds laid down palm branches before the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday believing that “Hosanna in the Highest” had come. This week lay down our praises believing that Jesus is Hosanna- the One who saves! 

“Righteous Display” 

The cross not only reveals the weight of our sin, but displays the greatness of our God!

“God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness…” – Romans 3:25

      When we look at the cross of Jesus we clearly see the seriousness of our sin. We see that our sin demanded a payment and that Jesus became that payment for us, He became the atonement. But through the cross we also see something else…we see the righteousness of our God! Through the cross God is seen as being utterly righteous – holy and just – while at the same time making right – holy and justified – those who receive his free gift of salvation. The cross should lead us to both repentance and praise!

Read:  Romans 3
Day Three Account:  Matthew 21:23–26:5

Easter Week- Day 2

Day Two Thumbnail        We created these daily readings for the week of Easter to help prepare our hearts to remember and celebrate the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus our Savior!  We encourage you to spend some time each day in these readings, not only reading them but processing their implications on your life and your love for God!


       This week you might notice that we are using palm branches in our Easter branding. This is because the crowds laid down palm branches before the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday believing that “Hosanna in the Highest” had come. This week lay down our praises believing that Jesus is Hosanna- the One who saves! 

“Ransom For All” 

Jesus didn’t seek a crown of gold to tell of His greatness, but a crown of thorns to tell of His love!

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:45

      Jesus had every right to live the life of royalty. He had every right to be served by others. He was in fact the very Son of God! He was the one of whom the Bible says “all things have been created through him and for him.” Jesus had every excuse to sit back and relax, yet Jesus refused to be served and instead He served others. And how would He serve? By doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. By dying on a cross to pay the price of our sin, to take God’s punishment of our sin on Himself. To be the ransom that paid the price for our freedom!

Read:  Romans 6:22-23, 8:1-4,  1 Timothy 2:5-6

Day Two Account:  Matthew 21:12-22